3 Kritsa - Kera Kardiotissa Convent - "Homo Sapiens Village" - Lassithi Plateau

After going to the direction of Agios Nikolaos, on the first crossroads we turned to the left, towards Kritsa.

Just before it there is the Byzantine Church of the Mother of God (Panagía Kerá) of XIII century, inside which is now located the museum with the admission by ticket for 3 euros. The church consists of three accomodation, the walls of each are painted at the different time and on the different themes. In fact, besides the painted walls there is nothing. The photograph is prohibited. This is checked seriously: a keeper constantly walks through the rooms and looks after visitors in order that someone would not reach a camera.

Kritsá is the typical tourist settlement, located on the slope of the hill, with the numerous souvenir stores on the narrow picturesque by-streets (with one-way traffic). After leaving the car on a free parking, we have walked along the settlement and have purchased several small souvenirs there.

Click the images to enlarge them.

Further we have gone along the road, which goes northwards. We have come to the archeological excavations Lató, but it was closed that day. After Vrísses village we have stopped at the two cloisters, which were empty of people in that time, they are located not far from each other on the height among trees. The remarkable views of lying below villages and the large settlement Neápoli opened from there. One of the cloisters is called Panagia Koufí Pétra, another one - Kremastá.

After going down to Neapoli, we have turned to E75 and have gone to the west. Then after Mália we have turned to the left inland towards Mohós.

Next stop was the Kerá Kardiótissa convent, which is situated on the slope of a mountain, of the ascetic architecture, with the admission by ticket for 2 euros. Inside is located the Byzantine church which was built in the period between the 961 and the 1204. The icon of Mother of God, which was being stored here, was stolen in XV century and it is found now in one of churches of Rome. In the monastery there is also a museum with church utensils and books. A water pump with the plastic cups stands beside the church.

Further the road has led us to the uncommon place, where several windmills and strange wooden sculptures stand near the two-story building. On the ground floor is located a souvenir store, on the first one - a restaurant. But the main thing - here is located the thematic park-museum "Homo Sapiens Village", where we have come, after paying at 3 euros apiece for the tickets.

In the small territory there were lined up the 5 houses, which show in chronological order, beginning from a cave, what living conditions had our ancestors. Furthermore, there are two more houses, a heathen temple and a church, they are colorfully designed and show, probably, the progress of humanity in the spiritual sphere. At the fence stands a row of the wheels, from the stone wheel to the modern automobile one (the technology progress). And next there is the monument, which symbolizes the summit of progress – the space exploration, with the inscription: "Vostok. Yiuri Gagarin. 12-04-1961 ".

Finally we have entered to the Lassíti Plateau, which has an area of 25 square kilometres and surrounded by mountains from all sides. The road with several villages encircles the plateau on its perimeter, and in the center there are the extensive meadows with flocks of sheep grazed on them - a real pastoral landscape!

We have stopped in Psihro village on the only and paid parking (2 euros). Hence begins the foot ascent to the cave of Zeus (Díkteo Ándron). One can rise also by donkey, but this method get little support, probably because of the overstated price of 15 euros. Everybody went on foot, and we among them. At the entrance into the cave there is a ticket office - 4 euros for a ticket.

According to a legend, Kronos who was father of Zeus, feared that his own children would rise against him and he swallowed them immediately after their birth. However, his wife Rhea deceived him, she has given him a stone covered into the swaddling clothes instead of a child, and newborn Zeus was left in the cave, where he grew, fed by the goat Amalthea.

The cave consists of two parts: the flat "anteroom" 42 metres long, 19 metres wide and 6.5 metres high; and the major part, which is descended into the depth, 85 metres long, 38 metres wide and from 5 to 14 metres high. A small pond is located in the far end.

The stone steps, which pass between the large gray stalactites and stalagmites, leads to the bottom. In fact this descent is the cave itself, the bottom only brings out its end. After descending into the gloomy internal space of the mountain and then, after rising back, we have begun to get down again, this time to the settlement. We have refreshed ourselves there by just squeezed orange juice (5 euros for 2 plastic cups) and have gone further.

After turning to the right in the Ágios Konstandínos village, we have left the plateau and have gone towards our hotel.


4 Plaka - Spinalonga - The Wind Farm - Elounda - Agios Nikolaos

This time our way passed to the north along the western shore of Mirabelo Bay.

At once, almost without stopping, we have arrived at Pláka, the last coastal settlement on the way, have parked beside the small beach of gray pebbles, and have gone to search for a boat to Spinalonga island which is located not far from the coast.

We did not search for a long time, a fellow stood at the turn to the sea and he directed everybody to the boat, moored not far from there. We have come to the vessel and have paid at 7 euros apiece of fare. The pleasure boat "Agios Georgios" has gone around the island and has moored on its pier. The captain, after giving us an hour for the sightseeing of the island, has led away the boat in order to give place to other vessels, which regularly attend this place not only from Plaka, but also from Elounda and Agios Nikolaos.

Spinalónga (Kalidón) is the small island of oval form, which is completely surrounded along the coast by fortress wall. The fortress was built by Venetians in the 1579 on the ruins of an ancient acropolis. After the conquest of Crete by the Turks, the fortress was retained by Venetians more than 50 years till the 1715. In the beginning of XX century, after the declaration of independence the new authorities arranged here the colony of lepers - leprosarium, which was abolished only in the 1957 after the protests of patients, which were brought here against their will from the entire country.

After passing into the fortress (2 euros for the admission), we have looked around museum, slowly have gone around the island along the dilapidated buildings and within an hour we were again in the moorage. After waiting for its turn, our boat has approached the pier and has brought us back to Plaka.

We have gone further to the north, where the road by zigzags rose to the hill with the panoramic view from the top of the bay and Spinalonga.

Further the road has turned to the direction of Vrouhás village. Soon after the turn we have stopped beside the old windmills, located in a row along the road. After returning back to the crossroads, we have turned to the left on the concrete road going along the sea, soon the broken-stone road have begun.

We have come to the wind power station, which belongs to the company "Plastika Kritis". In the field, which covered with small bushes, are raised 12 gigantic white poles, each is about 3 metres diameter and more than 40 metres high, at the top of each the 3 long blades rotate, cleaving the air and meanwhile uttering a low rhythmical rumble. At the far end of the station territory, as a dwarf among the giants, the small white Church of Saint John stands.

Getting the end of the road to the north, we have gone back. We have stopped to bathe at the small sandy beach in Eloúnda. Here the road comes up close to the sea and in order to come into it one can only step over a small ledge and pass 5 metres of a sandy strip.

The road rises upward after Elounda, where one more observation point is located. Below are situated some of the most expensive hotels, with a pool (or at worst a Jacuzzi) in each number; and where the cheapest room at the low season costs about 500 euros for a night.

Further we have come to Ágios Nikólaos that is the capital of the Lassiti nome and the only city in Crete without fortress (once it was there too, but it was destroyed by an earthquake). The center of city is located around the small lake Voulisméni, which have become the gulf, when it was connected with the sea by the channel. In spite of the connection with the sea, the lake-gulf seems completely freshwater because of the dim water and the presence of ducks. From the shore opposite to the channel the hill with the picturesque view of the lake and adjacent blocks of the city steeply rises.

We have stopped at the high shore, have photographed and have gone to the walk around the city, at the same time buying products and souvenirs and remembering about the forthcoming end of our stay in the island.

All-round panorama from the shore of Voulismeni Lake, Agios Nikolaos


Attribution-No Derivative Works (CC-BY-ND) by Andrey K.